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Summer salads, healthy, tasty and nutritious

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Its summer, and the garden and farm markets are bursting with fresh vegetables and greens. When the day is hot, creating a refreshing, delicious salad doesn’t heat up the kitchen and drain the spirits of the chef. Here are some tips on creating interesting salads that will help satisfy that craving for fresh food.

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Darker veggies create a healthier salad, so skip the iceberg. Using spinach, kale, swiss chard or romaine is a great alternative, with lots of extra nutrients and flavor. Combinations are always good too, so if you have a few leaves of spinach and half a head of cabbage, combine and not waste money or food.

By adding some protein you can increase taste and healthfulness, and it does not have to be expensive. Try tossing in a cup of leftover diced grilled boneless chicken. Another protein boost would be by adding nuts, seeds or beans. A cup of black beans added to your salad would provide 15 grams of protein and soluble fiber that helps to lower cholesterol, keeps blood sugar balanced and fills you up. Another way is to add cooked grains such as quinoa or bulgur wheat to give additional protein and flavor.

Salads burst with juicy goodness when you add fruit. Adding sliced fresh pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, papaya, mango, apples, cranberries, diced avocado, and olives can turn an ordinary salad into something extraordinary. Even just a small scattering of fruit is enough to pique your taste buds.

Adding diced or chopped vegetables does more than add color into your salad bowl; you are also packing your bowl full of vitamins and a great source of fiber. For crunchy, tasty salads, shred or thinly slice cabbage, carrots, broccoli or cauliflower.

Tossing a handful of freshly harvested herbs into your salad is a zesty way to really bring out flavor. Thyme, basil, marjoram, and parsley are only a few fresh herbs that really make a salad superb. Try combinations and remember that if you harvest your home grown herbs often, that will keep them producing. This goes for garden vegetables too, such as beans, zucchini and yellow summer squash, spinach and broccoli.

Eating with the seasons is always good for you and your pocketbook. In spring when asparagus is fresh and readily available, instead of steaming each spear for dinner, save out a couple to dice up for fresh for salads. Its a great way to add flavor and taste without breaking the budget. In summer when the tomatoes are lush and ripe, add liberally to salads, stuff salads into cored tomatoes or plan salads that star tomatoes such as tomato bread salad.

Speaking of tomatoes, there are so many colors, types and sizes, and during the summer, such superior taste that many people choose not to eat fresh tomatoes in the winter. Sizes run the gamut of tiny cherry and currant size tomatoes to plum shaped meaty tomatoes to huge delicious heirloom whoppers that will need slicing and dicing. Generally speaking, the lighter the skin, like yellow, orange and green striped tomatoes have less acidity. The deeper colors such as red, purple and nearly black have a higher acidity content and can cause some people who eat a lot of them to develop sores in the mouth. By combining different colors of tomatoes you can get lots of color and dramatic looking salads.

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